From Granada we again arrived just a few minutes before 8 PM, closing time, at the reception of the ecological camping Cortijo San Isicio near Cazorla. It is a small camping, where tents are placed on beautiful terraces and on top campers can find a spot. It is a very quiet camping, with very good and clean sanitary. There is a small shop, WiFi at the reception area and in the evening you can order bread for the next morning. In summer they have a swimming pool and there are some really nice glamping tents for hire. This camping is not suited for very large campers or mobile homes. No problem though for our 6 m long camper but be warned, the entrance road is a steep one. From the camping it is a 20 min. walk to Cazorla town.
We initially had planned to hike the Rio Borosa in the Sierra de Cazorla, but you have to drive one hour from the camping to reach the start of the hike, so we decided on a closer walk out of Cazorla. At the reception of the camping you can find maps with the different walks in the area. We ordered bread for the next morning, and after breakfast drove to Cazorla on our bikes, the road is mostly downhill from the camping. We left our bikes on Plaza de Santa Maria where the walk starts on the right side of the ruined church away from the town. In the ruins of the church you find the tourist office. The walk ‘Ruta rio Cerezuelo – Riogazas’ follows the Cerezuelo river upstream. On top you can take a right turn and walk to a waterfall 400 m further, which we did, only to find the waterfall had fallen completely dry (climate change!). We walked back and continued the walk to the right past the Ermita de San Sebastian, and just after the Ermita (small chapel) you walk back down through a forested area, back to Cazorla. The whole walk takes around 3,5 hours and is quite beautiful. After our hike we had a late lunch (or early dinner) on the Plaza de Santa Maria in Casa Tino, under the shade of trees. We shared four portions of tapas, for three of them we chose small rations and still the plates were huge!!
The next morning we paid 44 euro for our two night stay and left in the direction of Córdoba with two planned stops in the Renaissance towns of Ubeda and Baeza. Our first stop was in Ubeda, where we parked at at a free parking lot at the West side of the city, just of the A 316, since the official parking areas at the South of the city were full and not really suited for campers. From there we biked to the centre of town where we locked our bikes. We walked through the centre of the old town towards the 16th century Plaza Vazquez the Molina where you find most of the renaissance architecture of Ubeda. We started with the Chapel of Our Saviour (El Salvador), one of the most beautiful renaissance churches in Andalucia, the palace of the marquise of Mancera, the impressive Santa Maria de los Reales Alcazares, the Palace del Ortega (now a parador), the old granary, the city hall and a beautiful renaissance fountain. We only visited the Chapel of Our Saviour on the inside. We then walked back to our bikes, biked to the parking and continued to Baeza which I preferred over Ubeda. The small town boasts beautiful vistas of the surrounding hills covered with olive trees as far as the eye can see.
We parked our car in a parking area in front of the School for the Guardia Civil en opposite a Mercadona. From there we walked 15 min. into the centre of Baeza. We first found the Puerta de Jaén and opposite from the gate the former Meat house with the coat of arms of Charles V and the Casa Populo which now houses the tourist office. We continued in a street uphill and found ourselves behind the former University and the Romanesque Church of Santa Cruz. Just opposite we found the restaurant El Estudiante, where we chose a table under an umbrella that brought some welcome shade from the hot afternoon sun. I ate a salad and my husband a piece of Iberico meat and we received really nice and tasty plates of food. I entered the former University and found myself on a beautiful interior patio.
After our lunch we walked in the direction of the Cathedral of Baeza with a 16th century fountain on the plaza in front of it, and the priest seminar founded in 1660. We ended our tour of the town on Plaza de la Constitucion surrounded by several bars and restaurants. The plaza used to be the arena for bull fights.
From Baeza we headed towards Cordoba, where we parked on a free parking area on the South side of the river near Puente Romano, just a ten minute walk away from the Mezquita. A shabby looking guy with a fluorescent vest led us in and turned up at our camper after we parked asking for 5 euro to look after our vehicle if we wanted to stay the night. We answered that this was a free parking (apparcamiente libre) which he admitted but argued that this was how he and his ‘mujer’ survived. We gave him the 5 euro to give ourselves some peace of mind and told him we expected that our camper would stay in tip top condition! You are not obliged to pay the guys, you will find them on every parking on this side of the river, but 5 euro is a lot cheaper than the 23 euro you pay at the official Aere camper of the city and you are really close to the city centre. We installed ourselves and walked in the direction of the centre, crossed the Roman bridge with Torre de la Calahorra on one side and a statue of Mary in the middle, towards the Puerta de la Puente to find the outer walls of the Mezquita beautifully lit. It was Saturday night so the city was really bustling with people. We strolled down some streets in the centre and decided to have dinner in the nicely looking Bodegas Mezquita. This was unfortunately the most disappointing meal of the whole trip. We rounded it of with an ice-cream from the Da Vinci ice-cream parlor.
The night on the parking was rather noisy since there is a lot of traffic in the neighborhoud. But we wanted to visit the Mezquita early the next morning because from Monday to Saturday between 8:30 till 9:30 AM you can visit the Mezquita free of charge. Around ten minutes before eight the next morning we left our camper and walked in the direction of the centre. We saw the sun come up while crossing the bridge creating beautiful colours in the sky over the Torre de la Calahorre. At about ten minutes before 8:30 AM we were standing in front of the main entrance of the Mezquita.
At exactly 8:30 the large doors open and we were let in. At the same time people also came in from the side doors. It is relatively quiet and solemn at that time, people whisper, and a voice over the telecom asks to respect this religious place. The Mezquita was for me the most impressive structure in Andalucia, it trumps the Alhambra of Granada and the Real Alcazar of Seville. The early morning visit also made a real impression. You can see the cathedral in the middle but can’t walk into it. One hour seems long, but is too short to really see every detail of this impressive structure. Charles V was appalled by the cathedral built in the Mezquita and said that a cathedral like this one could have been built anywhere, but that they had destroyed something unique in the world. The mezquita was built on the site of a Roman temple starting in 785 by ‘kalief’ Abd ar-Rahman who came to help build every day for one hour. You come in a hall that is 104 m wide where more than 800 columns are placed and is sometimes compared to a palm forest. In the South wall you find the beautiful prayer chapel for the imam in Moorish style. In the middle of this solemn architectural structure we now find a cathedral in a mix of gothic and renaissance architectural styles that seem totally out of place here. After an hour roaming in this wonderful piece of art, all visitors are ushered out and mass starts in the cathedral. You are allowed to stay and attend mass. It will allow you to enter the cathedral. The mass takes around 30 min. because half an hour later the regular paying visitors come in.
In Cafeteria Roma in Calle Gregorio Maranon we had a typical Andalucian breakfast: toast with tomatoes and toast with tomatoes and cheese and a sweet pie. I has planned to go to Panaderia La Cosecha but accidentally walked in this cafeteria instead and did not regret it.
We planned the rest of our trip during breakfast. We decided to visit Antequera, Ronda and Sierra de Grazalema for some hikes. Only then we realized that for the two hikes we wanted to make (El Pinsapar and Gargante Verde) we needed a special permit. I searched around on the internet, sent a mail tot the El Bosque visitors centre and got a mail back saying that the reservation could now be done via an online reservation application. In the mail they sent us the link to the website of Junta de Andalucia and instructions on how to proceed. You come onto a portal where you choose to make a reservation without a digital certificate. You can choose the area, walk or activity and itinerary and you can then choose an available date and the number of persons you would like to make the walk with. You then come onto a page where you fill out your personal details. Be aware that the system only accepts up to 9 digits for your id or passport number, and it also does not accept foreign mobile phones. Even the Spanish mobile phone number we entered counted one digit too much, so we just entered the first 9 digits of our ID card number and also entered a mobile phone number missing the last digit. But this was the only way we were able to send in the application. Almost immediately we received an e-mail back with a link to confirm our reservation (with a warning this should be done within the following 30 min.) You then receive a second e-mail with the reservation number and a link to download the permit. You can apply for a the permit max. of 60 days in advance up until the day before, if permits are still available.
We made a walk through the Jewish quarter, visiting the old mosque and some patios in the area and continued to the Palacia de Viana, that boasts no less than 12 beautiful patios and a garden. Cordoba is known for its patios, and they thank this to the Romans who built their houses around an inner courtyard with a well or a fountain. The Muslims continued the tradition filling the patios with plants and the tradition still lives on today. Every year in May, Cordoba hosts the Patios de Cordoba Festival, a patio contest and festival during which visitors can freely visit the patios of Cordoba in bloom.
We first planned to have lunch on Plaza de la Corredera but were not convinced by what we saw and via a Google search ended up at restaurant La Compania, where we shared some tapas, all fo them really flavourful and of high quality, I highly recommend it! The restaurant is a bit hidden in a small alley, Calle Conde de Cardenas 13. We walked back to the centre longing for an ice-cream, but the ice-cream parlour I wanted to try was unfortunately not there anymore, so we just returned to our camper and set of in the direction of camping La Campina, South of Cordoba where we had a simple camper dinner with bread and yoghurt. During this trip we rediscovered the typical Sevillan Torta de Aceite Original de Inés Rosales, we knew from our visit of Seville a few years back. It is a thin sweet bread with olive oil flavoured with anise and sesame seeds, delicious with sweet toppings or cheese. Camping La Campina is a small scale camping, close to the road, with all the necessary amenities but for the rest pretty basic.
The next morning we paid 23 euro for our one night stay and set off in the direction of Antequera.
- Download the app Park4Night to find parking spaces where you can overnight with your camper or van.
- Download the app Campercontact to find camping sites when on the road.
- You can also find camping spots via Google Maps
- Gloves are handy to empty your chemical toilet
- A headlamp can be handy
- Take an extra battery for your camera, for the nights you park without electricity
- Take a powerbank to charge phone and tablet when you park overnight without electricity
- Flip-flops and something easy to wear to go to the shower on the camping
- Two sets of shampoo/shower soap so you can shower simultaneously
- Best time to visit Andalucia is from October till May, during summer it gets very busy and very hot! Spring and Autumn are the best periods!
- If you don’t want to spend money on special toilet paper for your chemical toilet, dispose of your toilet paper in a plastic garbage bag which you throw away in the garbage container.
- From Monday to Saturday you van visit the Mezquita in Cordoba free of charge between 8:30 and 9:30 AM
- The parking areas South of the river in Cordoba are a good base to park your van or camper to visit Cordoba, they are free of charge
- Plan an evening visit to Cordoba, the atmosphere is great in the evening.